Actually using documents and data with iCloud
Since we got the latest version of Mac OS X and iOS 6 and iCloud working properly with document data between the two operating systems, we finally have an iCloud that works. Whereas before you could create Documents on your iOS device, but then you would have use a clunky web interface to be able to get those iPad documents onto your Mac, now it all works a little bit more seamlessly. There are one or two small caveats, the main one being that you really need to think about working in one app. That is, not wanting to work on a text document first of all in perhaps TextEdit or Daedalus and then access the same document in a different application such as Byword.
Getting started with iCloud and documents
I would imagine at this stage you have already sorted yourself out with a free iCloud account, if not there is plenty of information around to help you set up a new account on iCloud. Even if you have already set yourself up with an iCloud account, you will also have to make sure that you have activated the Documents and Data setting in your system preferences. Of course you will have to do this both on your iOS 6 devicesand also within Mac OS X. Once you have got all of this organised you will be held to use iCloud compatible applications, such as Byword and any other applications from the iWork 09 suite.
At the moment there are not that many applications that are able to store their data within iCloud. This is probably due to the fact that there has been some confusion about how to organise this in the developer community. Not only that, but developers got used to using other solutions such as Dropbox. Using Dropbox did actually become the de facto standard because it worked well and you know what they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But there is always the race to make apps better and for new features to be added to make the applications more desirable. So it is only a matter of time before iCloud will be added to most of the top applications in iOS and Mac OS X. It is all part of the way of thinking in the Apple universe to have all of our documents everywhere.
Nitty-gritty of using documents and Data in iCloud
If you are using an application like Byword on your Mac you have the choice of whether you want to have that document stored locally or on iCloud. Initially when you do your first save, it will ask you where you want to save it and it will be somewhere on your hard drive. After it has been saved then you can use the drop-down menu that you see in the top of the window. If the document is not on iCloud you will have the option of moving the document to iCloud. If the document already is on iCloud, then in the drop menu you will just see an option to Move to.
You don’t really want to have copies of the same document scattered all over the place unless you really mean to do so. That is why you are given the opportunity of moving the file rather than copying the file. It could become confusing and lead to potential disasters if the file gets split into two places. If you do need to have a snapshot or a version of a file, then you can use the duplicate command. OK – So you have first of all saved the file and given it a name and then you can move it into iCloud. The next part of this process is when you want to edit the same file on whatever iOS devices.
Accessing the same file in Byword in iOS 6
This synchronisation from your Mac to iCloud does work fairly quickly. When you’re in the view where you can see your list of files in Byword on your iPad, you may not see the file straight away, but if you look at the bottom of the list you will see that you can tap to sync. You may even need to give it a minute or two, depending on how long it is since you’ve sent the file to iCloud. As I am writing this, using DragonDictate, of course, I have the Byword open on my iPad and I can see that every couple of minutes the file is being updated. At the same time that the file is updated, I see in the top bar of the window that the word Edited disappears. The fact that the file is continually being auto saved can be incredibly useful in case something goes wrong. At most you are only ever going to lose five minutes of work. Best of all is the fact that you don’t have to think about it and that it happens automatically. Mind you that automatic saving happens whether the file is being stored locally or whether it is on iCloud. It is still possible to do a Cmd S or click on Save to manually force a save.
What to look for when you are opening documents in iCloud enabled applications
When using Byword on the iPad and I want to open a document I have a choice of where to get those documents and data from. I can use iCloud of course, there is Dropbox and On My iPad for the locally stored files. I have just pulled down the list of files to reveal the search facilities and a choice as to whether the files are sorted by date or name. It is really very easy to use and to set up, so that you can have your documents in whatever place works best for you. If you have your documents stored within iCloud, then you will have an extra copy of those on your iPad as well. The option where the files are stored locally means that it is just locally and not on iCloud at all. It seems to make good sense to utilise the iCloud service.
Bridging the gap between iOS 6 and Mac OS X
This is what iCloud was made for, so that we could have our documents everywhere. What about, when you are working with application on your Mac and it doesn’t have a iOS brother or sister application. Well the best answer for that really is to choose one iCloud enabled application and stick with it. Byword works great for me and it is going to be a better option for most people than TextEdit. This is because when you save a file to iCloud in TextEdit there isn’t a text editor on the iPad or iPhone that you can use to get to those files. The only way around the problem would be to save those files into something like Dropbox.
Using iCloud and sharing documents
Well, to a certain extent you are sharing documents for yourself between your Apple devices, iOS and Mac OS X. What about if you want to share documents on iPad with other people. In Dropbox this is easy to do by using a public folder and you can share out the URL to whatever it is you want to share. Not quite the same if you’re using iCloud though.
Sync Documents iCloud or use Dropbox
There are options, you could make a duplicate and send it to Dropbox for sharing. You could share out in the traditional ways by sending out in an email. With Byword you get the option to send out in a few different formats, including rich text, plaintext, HTML attachment or as a PDF. This will work and is not necessarily more difficult or worse, but is different and you just need to understand how iCloud works and what it can do.
Document security and iCloud
The iCloud service really is designed for home users and not really for the enterprise or business requirement. This is because business users may be more paranoid about the fact that they don’t have control over the security of documents stored in the cloud. It may well be that the cloud based storage is perfectly safe in normal use, but certain business situations could be best served by not using cloud storage at all. I have been talking mainly about text apps here but the image manipulation app Pixelmator uses iCloud.
The Mac20Q verdict on iCloud
Personally, I am quite happy using iCloud, but I’m still going to be using Dropbox. There are still many applications that I like to use that are not iCloud documents & data enabled and I’m not going to give them up. I don’t mind that I have some files in one place and some other files in another. This can even work well in terms of making best use of the cloud services available and the amount of space that each of them give you for free. The only thing about using some applications for iCloud and some applications with Dropbox, is that I have to remember which way round I have setup. Generally this is no big deal. I believe that iCloud mobile documents finally have come of age and become useful and will probably get better in further iterations of the product. We now know how to store documents in iCloud.